Posts Tagged ‘South African’

Wine news; wine counterfeiting & burnt rubber wines

Monday, June 29th, 2009

I try to stay current, but I am not a newspaper guy.  For a time I was, but the piles of newspaper sections I saved to read the next day (and never did), contributed to the “walls are caving in” feeling of a seemingly shrinking (small to begin with Manhattan) apartment and led me to give up paper and opt instead to get my news online.  One such online source is the daily email I get from the NY Times.  I also get several wine related alerts both from the NY Times and from google.

You were forced to suffer through that irrelevant dribble due to the source of the 2 news stories that caught my attention on this day – BOTH from the NY Times.

The first, an article sent to me by buddy Dave, is a piece written by Robin Goldstein.  In the article, “Are Empty Wine Bottles on eBay Being Used for Counterfeiting?“, Goldstein wonders whether (as the title suggests) purchasers of empty bottles are purchasing said bottles to refill them and pass them along to unsuspecting buyers as the real thing.  A rather unsettling thought given the exorbitant asking price for some of these collectible bottles.  Counterfeiting is not a new phenomenon, and I have read about technologies being developed to test the authenticity of wine in the bottles.  Either way, given storage issues, one must seriously consider the source they are buying from – whether buying a $20 bottle or $2,000 bottle.

Of further interest, an item mostly unrelated, but also in the NY Times, is that of the negative biased towards South African wines.  The article by Barry Bearak, “A Whiff of Controversy and South African Wines“, talks a bit about the biases (or stigmas if you will) that have developed as a result of some scathing reviews for South African wines.   Bearak tells of the wine critic who chastised a large group of South African wines for their off putting burnt rubber aromas.

The result is an industry that has taken issue with its image when it seems that only a sample of (well intended but) seemingly improperly trained winemakers allowed certain sulfide compounds to develop in their wines, resulting in these off putting aromas.

While both this aroma issue and the resulting stigma are serious problems it leads me, and Israeli wine advocate, to wince in empathetic  pain.  Israeli wines have suffered the Manishewitz stigma for FAR TOO LONG. (Incidentally, Manishewitz is & always has been made in NY state – not that there is anything wrong with NY state wines.)  Countless articles about Israeli wines have begun with the line “this is not your (insert previous generation reference)’s Manishewitz – Israeli wines have improved by leaps and bounds…   BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.  Prejudice, bias, stigma, generalization – whatever you want to call it, it SUCKS.  How about starting an article about Israeli wines by saying that “although unbeknown to most, Israel has been producing world class wines for nearly 30 years now”?

I don’t want to belabor the point.  But I do hope that people begin/continue to give wines from ALL OVER THE WORLD a chance just as they give cuisine from all over the world a chance.  Sure you might end up with something less than what you hoped, but at least you gave it a fair chance and were not influenced by archaic or minority samples that tainted the reputation of the whole.

Happy bias-free wine tasting!


Better Wine Bar experiences

Friday, February 29th, 2008

This past Wednesday I visited two wine bars.  One was with a young woman after work and the other was with yet another young woman somewhat later in the evening.

The first wine bar was a South African wine bar which I have previously mentioned.  I was greeted warmly by two people that worked there.  I have been to the place twice before but I was greeted as if I was a regular.

When my companion arrived she indicated that she preferred white wine as red wine tends to have an effect similar to caffeine.  I was fine with that as a nice South African Chenin Blanc seemed like a nice wine to start the evening with.  The server allowed us to try two kinds and we chose one which was nice Quaffer (simple, easy to drink wine).

The only negative comment I have about my experience there was that the server, thinking he was doing his job, kept coming over and pouring the wine from the bottle into our glasses.  NOT A BIG DEAL of course but I MUCH prefer to do my own pouring.  This in my mind better allows me to see the evolving of the wine in the glass (where relevant – which here with the Chenin it was not) and also allows me to maintain a level in my glass that I am comfortable with – something that is important to someonewho likes to swirl their wine as much as I do.

The next wine bar is a place in my neighborhood that we were informed opened 7 weeks ago.  The place has an East side location that I have been to in the past.  This location was very impressive.  Quite large – not necessarily the best thing for a wine bar as the small, intimate setting seems to be the format that has proven to be most successful.  It was dimly lit and had a warm feeling.  I was most impressed by a storage room enclosed by see-through glass doors that kept the wines temperature & humidity controlled.  Something I might want to include if I were ever to open a wine bar (hypothetically speaking of course ;)).

But the best part about this wine bar was the service.  We were offered multiple tastes before ordering.  There was no pressure whatsoever.  And when the server could not answer a question she simply said that she better ask someone who could properly address the question – no BULLSHIT.  Which I very much appreciated.  BUT, it did not end there.  We finally decided on a California Syrah.  It was brought over, presented…and WAS OFF.  I think it may have been corked, but definitely off.  The server was extremely apologetic (which was not necessary) and was quick to offer to get us a different bottle.  the other California Syrah option was brought out and proved to be a very fine wine.  BUT, it did not end there.  Apparently embarrassed by how long it took for us to get a satisfactory wine (I process that while long I actually enjoyed) the server offered to get us a plate of food on the house.  My date had not yet eaten so we ordered a tuna tartare which actually went quite well with the Syrah (even though one might think that a tannic Syrah & salty raw fish might clash).

In all I had a lovely evening and I was very pleased with the warm service and decor in both locations.  Something to aspire to…

Happy wine bar hopping!


Wining and even some dining

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Too “tired” from all the wine last night to blog. But I was out at a couple of important places and there is lots to write. So without further ado…

I was to have drinks with a gentleman who was interested in being involved with the Israel Wine project I am working on. Given that the project involves wine from a specific region, we decided to check out a wine bar in NYC that has wines (and food style) exclusively from a non-traditional wine region – South Africa. In a nutshell, this large wine bar has done so much right, but seems to be missing “it”.

Upon arriving at the bar the place was quite crowded – but what wine bars aren’t these days. It took several minutes for someone to even acknowledge our presence, and once that was done, it took several more minutes before we were assured we would be seated shortly.

Once we were (finally) seated, we quickly picked out two S. African wines that had a little age to them. MISTAKE. Now I know, I must do a better job documenting the exact wines, but I do remember that we ordered a 2000 Merlot & a 2001 Cabernet. The merlot was either oxidized, past its prime (yet still tannic?), blended with Pinotage (I’m not a fan), or full of Brett (brettanomyces). The Cab seemed better, but it was the type of wine where the nose did not carry over to the palate. It had an unusual candied/sour cherry & cherry wood nose while the palate was more dark fruit and oak driven. Better than the merlot, but not great.

Now I must admit, there is 1 thing I love about this wine bar. Upon receiving your wine, customers get an empty glass & a small carafe of the wine they ordered. This allows the drinker(s) to pour as much or as little as they want at a time. It also makes sharing easier.

After the wine bar we were off to Capsouto Freres in Tribeca. CF is known for their wines, and it just so happens that there was an article in yesterdays NY Sun about Jacques, the proprietor, and his ambassador-ship for Israeli wines in particular ( ).

Upon arriving at CF we informed Jacques that we read the article in the paper and I reminded him that we had previously met. I think he was pleased that we had seen the piece and he graciously engaged us in conversation about Israeli wine. Not only does Jacques have a fine palate, but he is a shrewd businessman. He selects fine wines for his wine list, but also seeks out deals and is consequently able to offer wines at very fair prices.

At Jacques’ recommendation we selected the 2001 Yatir blend – made from 60% Cab & 40% Merlot. This wine was made from fruit from the Judean Hills region & 2001 was (I believe) the first vintage released by Yatir. Sadly the wine was not overly impressive. While it was better than the South African wines we had earlier in the evening, it possessed some heat, and tasted a bit “cooked”. What might once have been nice fresh plums, was both smelling and tasting a bit like cooked plums & other jammy fruit.

All in all a wonderful evening with a new friend and possible business partner, but somewhat disappointing wines.

TONIGHT I will be tasting Châteauneuf-du-Pape with my tasting group. Very much looking forward & I hope to post a full tasting report at my earliest convenience…

Happy drinking!